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An early member of the Nazi Party, Göring was among those wounded in Adolf Hitler’s failed Beer Hall Putsch in 1923. While receiving treatment for his injuries, he developed an addiction to morphine which persisted until the last year of his life. By 1941, Göring was at the peak of his power and influence, and Hitler designated him as his successor and deputy in all his offices. After the war, Göring was convicted of war crimes and crimes against humanity at the Nuremberg trials. He was sentenced to death by hanging, but committed suicide by ingesting cyanide the night before the sentence was to be carried out. Göring was born on 12 January 1893 at the Marienbad Sanatorium in Rosenheim, Bavaria. Hermann Epenstein, a wealthy Jewish physician and businessman his father had met in Africa.

Epenstein provided the Göring family, who were surviving on Heinrich’s pension, first with a family home in Berlin-Friedenau, then in a small castle called Veldenstein, near Nuremberg. Interested in a career as a soldier from a very early age, Göring enjoyed playing with toy soldiers and dressing up in a Boer uniform his father had given him. He was sent to boarding school at age eleven, where the food was poor and discipline was harsh. He sold a violin to pay for his train ticket home, and then took to his bed, feigning illness, until he was told he would not have to return. The next year his mother had a falling-out with Epenstein. When World War I began in August 1914, Göring was stationed at Mulhouse with his regiment. Film clip of Göring in the cockpit of a Fokker D.

During the first year of World War I, Göring served with his infantry regiment in the area of Mülhausen, a garrison town less than 2 km from the French frontier. He was hospitalized with rheumatism, a result of the damp of trench warfare. After completing the pilot’s training course, Göring was assigned to Jagdstaffel 5. Seriously wounded in the hip in aerial combat, he took nearly a year to recover. He then was transferred to Jagdstaffel 26, commanded by Loerzer, in February 1917.

On 7 July 1918, following the death of Wilhelm Reinhard, successor to Manfred von Richthofen, Göring was made commander of the famed “Flying Circus”, Jagdgeschwader 1. In the last days of the war, Göring was repeatedly ordered to withdraw his squadron, first to Tellancourt airdrome, then to Darmstadt. Many of his pilots intentionally crash-landed their planes to keep them from falling into enemy hands. Like many other German veterans, Göring was a proponent of the Stab-in-the-back legend, the belief which held that the German Army had not really lost the war, but instead was betrayed by the civilian leadership: Marxists, Jews, and especially the Republicans, who had overthrown the German monarchy.

Göring remained in aviation after the war. He tried barnstorming and briefly worked at Fokker. After spending most of 1919 living in Denmark, he moved to Sweden and joined Svensk Lufttrafik, a Swedish airline. Göring was often hired for private flights.